GROUND: A man from Oklahoma travels to Marseille to visit his imprisoned daughter and ends up trying to prove her innocence by finding the man who she believes actually committed the crime.
MEET AGAIN: In the wrong hands, STILL WATER could easily have dived too far into one end of the political spectrum and been a nauseating experience. Centered on a middle-aged man from Stillwater, Oklahoma (Matt Damon) who travels to a foreign country and has to deal with people who understandably don’t trust him given that he is, to them, a very specific type of American, it would have been too easy to make this a long and flattering exercise. But drawing from his first discreet, humanist works like The station attendant and Win win, director Tom McCarthy opts instead for a character study that postulates whether a man from a small corner of this country so entrenched in his habits can completely change his outlook on life.
In other words, this is definitely not the movie it is primarily marketed for. Recent announcements and trailers tend to lean towards the more straightforward and exciting first half, in which Oklahoma construction / oil worker Bill Baker (Damon) travels to France to visit his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin) – who is in jail after being convicted of killing his girlfriend while studying abroad – then decides to prove her innocence on her own. This initial act plays out much like a typical investigative thriller, in which a fish out of the water that stands out like a sore thumb follows clues that can lead to his daughter’s innocence. This part of the movie delivers exactly what the bulk of the trailers promise – but even still – McCarthy’s eye extracts more depth from the script (he shares credit to Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré), and alluded to from the first moments it’s barely on the case, and more on the man trying to solve it.
Express it with a less blooming version of his Texan accent in True courage, Damon’s Baker is a man who has no problem keeping things as they are in his life. He works any job he can get on construction sites or on oil rigs; he wears the same clothes and the same hat; he dines at local fast food restaurants and; carries the same iPod Mini that is older than some of the people who will see this movie in theaters. His visits to his daughter are about as different and exciting as his life is, and even they, surrounded by a whole new world of food and culture, do nothing to explore and bring home takeout from Subway to his hotel. His desire to prove his daughter’s innocence came not only from a sense of fatherly duty, but also from redemption to make up for the years spent being general shit when Allison was younger.
As he demonstrated with Projector, McCarthy is a master of weaving dramatic characters into an accessible thriller and emphasizing how it is these characters’ dilemmas that are just as, if not more, important than the mystery game to him. -same. What makes his work so engaging is how, in many ways, Baker’s unadorned sense of firmness only makes it worse. At one point, a resident named Virginie (Camille Cottin) urges him to respect Marseille’s cultural boundaries, and his stubbornness and contempt for where he is and who he affects doesn’t make him seem heroic, but l rather send in a spiral.
As the plot thickens, you don’t watch a beneficent father come closer to saving the day, but rather a man sink deeper into a hole until he sees nothing. what he does doesn’t help, and it’s time he accepted that now is the time to change or step aside for good. It can be easy to lump Baker and his personality into a specific political spectrum, but McCarthy and the writers go to great lengths to avoid this (this is most noticeable in one of the movie’s biggest jokes). Rather, he uses the Middle American character of Baker as a role model to explore a man who has to accept that the way he used to do and perceive things is not exactly the right way, which makes it a study. character more captivating than a typical study. Thriller in French.
Getting it all through the film certainly feels like its 140-minute runtime, shifting the canvases in surprising and welcome ways. But it’s all rooted in Damon’s truly compelling performance. He does a fantastic job of maintaining a specific tone in Baker’s speech, hardly ever rising above a Mid-South-West franchise, but with a few low-key changes that ensure his specific emotion in anyone. what a scene never feels lost. He draws you into Baker and gives him a full arc by adding depth to what seems simplistic, adding subtleties to his physique to show that while he hasn’t changed completely, he’s become more up to date. comfortable in its new setting by opening up to new people. and lifestyles. He will surely receive praise for his performance, and it’s deservedly deserved thanks to the way he makes such an imposing presence with such an average man.
These aforementioned new people are Virginie, a stage actress and single mother, and her young daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud) – whom Baker gets closer to while he is in his first detective mode. While he was at first only his translator and a helping face, through them he lets his guard down and charts a new path towards true growth. Cottin is vibrant and warm like Virginie, who while being reserved about her actions, always keeps her heart open to her cause and doesn’t take blows to demean him. Siauvaud is adorable and affectionate, immediately seeing the good in Baker bringing out the best in him and lending them a good dose of humor. Together they make a lovely family unit, and given that the majority of Acts 2 and 3 are focused on them and their dynamics, it’s so much easier to understand how McCarthy uses their bond to explore the ways people influence each other. each other, with the smallest moments between them leaving the biggest impact. Even as more and more events occur that begin to take the story down a more predictable path, McCarthy adds suspense and takes home a heartbreaking moment or two.
Through Allison, we’re also meant to explore a theme of hereditary behavior and how a parent’s negative actions can impact their children. While Breslin is great as Allison – hinting at a side of her that’s no different from her father while also bringing out her unbreakable wit and outlook – that angle doesn’t work as much as what constitutes the essence of the film. While that means solidifying one of the more impactful aspects of the finale, the landing feels a bit rushed and fumbled. There is real, insightful power in the way the film as a whole examines how far a seemingly stationary object has come and the exploration to see if people can really change, but McCarthy doesn’t quite stick with it. landing, and not all the emotions feel won by the end.
Regarding something I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of people who can walk away hating a lot. Still water. It could be the Baker character genre, the changes in storytelling / tone, or the extent of his execution. And these are all justified grievances. But I left fascinated by it all. The humanistic focus of McCarthy, Damon, and the performances of the supporting actors who sell it as an effective little ensemble piece, and the tense suspense that gives way to absorbing pathos all combine for thrills and rich drama that more often connect these failures. If you were expecting an outright thriller, I tell you to go with an open mind, and if the runtime doesn’t wear you out, you’ll come away with a more rewarding experience than you might have. probably thought possible.